Apologies for my failures as a Houstonian and Texan

This is a difficult post to write, but I need to get this out there. This post is long overdue, and with the end of the year coming it makes much more sense to end a year with a post of this type than start a new year with it.

I’m not going to tell the full backstory or even attempt to get my side of the story on record at this time. That was part of the original idea behind this post, originally conceived as a series of posts.

What I am going to do is set the stage by summarizing what I have observed to be key points about the culture of Texas and Houston. Some of it is well summarized at An Outsider’s Guide to Texas Culture (however, note that I do not endorse the politics of the rest of the linked site). I will briefly quote from that article here:

  • Texans are proud of Texas. We like where we’re from, and we know our state. We take Texas history in junior high school, where we learn about how Texas was under six different nations during its history and about how Texas was once its own country.
  • Texans are independent-minded. We’ll listen to what you think, but we’ll make up our own mind. We expect to have to solve our own problems, and we expect you to try to solve your own problems as well. We expect no help, but we’ll offer to help and accept help when you offer. We’re confident in ourselves, and have no expectation that your way will be better. It’s not arrogance, it’s experience: our pragmatism has served us well in the past. Politically, we resent the influence of other states on our politics. We don’t want Washington DC, New York, or California telling us what’s best for Texans. Texas political independence is valued by many Texans, and many of us want a chance to make our voice heard when it comes to Texas’ future.

Taken together this generally means it is expected that native Texans should solve Texan problems, as opposed to outsiders (those from other states or even other countries). In its most liberal interpretation, it also means a native Houstonian is better equipped to solve a problem in the Houston area more than, say, a Dallasite or an Austinite (but that’s not nearly as relevant here).

It is at this point that I would like to be able to tell a proud story about how I personally embodied those values and stepped up to lead Houston’s first real pinball league back in 2014 or 2015. Unfortunately, that story would be complete fiction; I cannot truthfully tell that story as that is simply not what happened.

I played in a lot of the early tournaments and leagues through 2018 (as you can see by going through old posts on this blog). But as far as helping run the events, that’s not something I did at that point in time.

Many of the events were (and some still are) run by a group known as the Space City Pinball League (SCPL), founded by a native of Cleveland (Ohio, not Texas) who found himself in Houston for educational reasons and then decided to stick around despite the lack of a local competitive pinball scene. For that matter, many of SCPL’s leaders are not native Houstonians or even Texans; at least one of them is not even originally from the US, and at least one may as well have been born in Buffalo (New York, not Texas). This isn’t intended to be an attack, simply a statement of facts.

Back to the topic at hand. By not stepping up, I failed Houston and I failed Texas. That failure falls far below any standard of acceptability, especially given that I am a lifelong native Houstonian and Texan. I deeply regret and am extremely remorseful for my inaction which has allowed the leadership of SCPL to effectively monopolize the competition pinball scene in the greater Houston area (at least for the moment). This is my mistake and I own it. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize just how big of a mistake that was until SCPL banned me from their events. I had hoped clearer heads would have prevailed and any ban/suspension would have expired or been lifted by now. That’s why you’ve seen a bunch of arcade visits and even content with no pinball or video game connection, with little exception.

However, in the same breath I ask for the chance to fix this mistake and the damage thus caused; if not all of it, whatever I can. While this is a really big mistake on my part, it is one that I have definitely learned from, and it is my endeavor that as many people learn from it so that it may not be repeated going forward. That’s part of the reason I’m making this post, and possibly others to follow.

My continued participation in some competitive pinball events, at least some of which may be outside the Houston area (including the Texas Pinball Festival coming up), may successfully be interpreted as a sign I am not giving up on pinball, particularly competitive pinball. I think it is only fair that those I have failed give me a chance to “make good” for that mistake.

“Failure isn’t about falling down / Failure is staying down” — Marillion, Rich (1999)

Are there mistakes (related to the pinball/arcade community) that I made after this one? Yes. I have offered an apology for most of them. sent earlier this year directly to some of the people involved. However, I feel like those mistakes would not have had the chance to happen if I was the founder and the one in charge of most of the Houston-area pinball tournaments/leagues. Taking a leadership position where one is expected to lead by setting a good example is a surprisingly powerful motivator to do the right thing and act in the best interests of the community at large.

To my credit, I have started the Bayou City Pinball League and announced some events. The coming year, 2024, may decide the future of those efforts. (I had plans to start an alternative league as early as 2018, and finally almost had something going in 2020. Of course, fate in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible until early 2021.)

There may be other apologies I may decide are necessary in the coming days, weeks, or months. For the moment, however, this is it.

In closing, I wish everyone a happy new year, but more importantly, I want to do my part to make it happy for the larger Houston area pinball scene, including the many potential new competitive pinball players out there.